Sutter Creek Engagement Session | Morgan + Vittawat

Morgan and Vittawat met in high school.  Yes.  That still happens.  Flash forward ten years and they are both in advanced academia, living apart and engaged.  This summer, Morgan was working and studying in Sacramento while Vittawat was still in their hometown in Reno.  When we started talking about possibilities for portrait locations, I was quick to suggest a Sutter Creek engagement session.  I had been following them on instagram for awhile and knew that they both loved wine, the outdoors and exploring as much as I did.  It was also equal distance between all of us, which made it convenient for Vittawat to get to as a weekend getaway with Morgan. 

It was partially a selfish request – I LOVE Sutter Creek.  I had been eyeing it as a portrait location forever.  My best friend’s parents live in the nearby town of Plymouth and some of my favorite clients ever (ahem, Jack and Kyle, as well as, Kerri and David) were wed there.  It’s my home away from home and one of the places in the world I feel most comfortable.  Wine, country and golden light – what’s not to love?  

Sutter Creek Engagement Session

There are more of my favorite images from Morgan and Vittawat’s Sutter Creek engagement session after the jump.  Here are some travel suggestions if you would like to visit the area yourself.  

STAY:  While the area has no limit to the kitchy bed and breakfasts’ available for the traveler that loves doilies and gardens, there are quite a few adorable boutique hotels here now as well.  

  • The Hanford House Inn is my personal favorite for staying directly in the downtown of Sutter Creek.  Downtown is a relative term: there’s one adorably quaint and walkable mainstreet.  Don’t let the tiny town fool you though – what it lacks in size, it makes up for in friendliness and charm and it has everything you would need within your reach: wine tasting rooms, a gourmet cheese shop, and a provisional general store.  Hanford House delivers warm fresh scones to your front door every morning and offers free wine tasting in the lobby every evening.  
  • Is there anything more adorable than a boutique hotel named Rest?  The answer is no.  Obviously.  Rest is only 20 minutes away from Sutter Creek in Plymouth, CA and it happens to be located within walking distance to my favorite restaurant, Taste, in the area.  
  • The Union Pub and Inn in nearby Volcano only offers four rooms over an exceptional restaurant, which happens to be owned by the same owners as Taste.  It’s been a longtime dream of mine to get a crew of people together to rent out the entire lodge one weekend for a getaway.  

EAT: it’s a sad state of affairs when you think the food in the foothills is better than the food at home, but it’s true.  I would drive two hours to eat at any of these restaurants! 

  • Taste has been awarded up and down every list imaginable that involves food and wine and for good reason.  I jump at any chance to eat there.  I’ve never been disappointed with anything I’ve been served and more often than not the meals come with a surprise delightful twist.  I’m a huge fan of their Monday Night Supper menu, which offers a first, main, and dessert course at a pre-fixe price along with wine pairings.  
  • You can’t suggest the Union Pub and Inn without including them on the eat recommendation list as well.  Their inventive seasonal menu changes frequently and it’s incredibly charming to sit on the patio and wine and dine on a warm summer night. 
  • Element is housed in the lobby of the Hanford House Inn and it’s my go-to brunch spot in the area.  Their daily egg specials always make your menu decisions incredibly difficult.  

DRINK:

  • Yorba offers small lot, premium bold wines from the Amador area.  Their tasting room is directly next door to the Hanford House Inn and their Shake Ridge Red is not to be missed.
  • Terre Rouge and Easton offers a wide selection of variety of everything Plymouth has to offer.  Their tasting room is unpresumptuous and their selection outstanding.  I love everything they offer (which is why I’m a wine club member) but their barbaras and zins really stand out for me.  
  • Helwig Winery is worth a stop for a picnic lunch just for the incredible view of their beautiful grounds, as well as a bottle of their bubbly rose.  
  • I love C.G. Di Arie for their inventiveness and spunk.  I became enamored with them after meeting the owner, Chaim Gur-Arieh, a few years back.  It helps that they are NPR under-writers also.  Chaim was born in Istanbul, Turkey but immigrated to Israel as a teenager.  He has a PHD in food science and spent a number of years working to engineer the flavors and consistency behind some of America’s most beloved products (Hidden Valley Ranch!  Captain Crunch!).  His energy, enthusiasm and quirkiness won me over and this bleeds into his wines.  Their gallery collections offer something unique to the area: inventive heavy blends using grapes like the touriga.  

 

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Plymouth CA Same Sex Wedding

Plymouth Wine Country Wedding | Plymouth, CA | Jack + Kyle

Today is Kyle’s birthday, so it seems fitting that I gift him with a few more sneak peeks of he and Jack’s amazing Plymouth wine country wedding day.  Jack and Kyle not only live in Amador Country wine country, but they are fully immersed in it: their home is atop a 360 degree view of vineyards and Jack works for Scott Harvey Wines.  If you haven’t had a taste of what Scott Harvey has been producing lately, then you are missing out.  I recommend picking up a bottle of 2013 1869 Zinfandel today!

The boys wanted a completely relaxed backyard affair on their private estate, surrounded by friends and family.  Food, wine, family, and friends are important to this couple and the day completely focused on all of these things.  Scott Harvey wines were poured liberally and the team from Sacramento favorites Mother and Empress pulled out all the stops with a farro burrata salad, grilled oysters, roasted potatoes with beer soaked melted cheese, unbelievably tender meat and sturgeon.

In order to really focus on their relationships with loved ones, the day was completely and incredibly unstructured.  The plan was two-fold, completely unconventional and I, of course, loved it: folks would show up in the late afternoon for appetizers, wines and cocktails and lawn games and then, at my word (yes, mine!), we moved everyone under an incredibly ancient and gorgeous oak tree, overlooking the sunset and vineyards for the ceremony.  Post ceremony, we moved back to the lawn for an al fresco evening dining experience under the stars.  Their ceremony was officiated by two of their best friends and both myself and, I think it’s safe to say, almost all of their guests cried almost the entire time.  In between tears of poignant joy and love for these two boys, we were all laughing hysterically thanks to gems like a “name-that-romantic-comedy” game that was played in the middle.  It was an incredibly tender and moving ceremony that left me feeling in awe of the sheer amount of love that can be given, shared, and accepted in the world.

The events of the last few days have left me heartbroken and distraught.  You know it’s bad when I can’t listen to NPR.  These two incredible men and the beautiful people that surrounded them on their wedding day are remarkable examples of the possibility and far reaching effects of love: it envelopes you in warmth and joy, shares and forgives, laughs and cries, and is an enduring example of the goodness of humanity.  I have to believe that love, and in turn, empathy and kindness, will always prevail in our world.

Venue: Private Estate, Plymouth, CA | Catering: Mother/Empress | Grooms’ Attire: Kait MCKee | Day-Of Coordinator: Allison Caruso of Turley Wines

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Rancho Cicada Retreat Wedding

Rancho Cicada Retreat Wedding | Plymouth, CA | Kerri + David

I have this small disclaimer on my wedding services page that states, “I will always work with budgets if I feel you and your wedding are a right fit.”  People either get it or they so clearly don’t.  The ones that get it send me amazing emails filled with personal details about why they are a good fit.  Kerri and David were some of those people.  She wrote in her email, “I’m trying to surround myself with people on my wedding day that have good/fun energy.”  Kerri talked about how important it was to her to include vendors who fit the bohemian intimate vibe they really wanted to recreate at their Rancho Cicada Retreat wedding.  They couldn’t have picked a better venue for what they were going for either: Rancho Cicada Retreat is a special place.  It’s a no-frills setting that you can rent for the entire week.  It’s lush, overgrown, and green with a brambling brook, hammocks and lawn games.  It’s a place where you can stay up late drinking whiskey by the campfire and no one comes to hush you.  It’s the kind of place where you can dance the night away and there is nary a neighbor to hear you.  It’s the kind of place where you can get married in an idyllic wonderland of green and golden hues, surrounded by as many of your friends and family as you want.  Although it is smack in the middle of one of California’s best wine regions, it feels like you are the only people in the world while you are there.

It’s the kind of venue that breeds a DIY affair and Kerri and David’s was certainly that.  Friends baked all the pies, officiated, and MC’d the night.  The party went on all weekend and their friends and family were so lovely and including that once again at this venue, I stayed and partied the night away in their company.  It seems to happen at this venue.  It’s clearly where the cool couples wed and I certainly can’t wait to return!  I’m feeling pretty grateful that Kerri found me and wrote to me so honestly and candidly and with such emotion.  It was clear from the get-go that these two are full of love and care and it was even more apparent on their wedding day.  Thanks Kerri and David for sharing your wedding retreat with me.  It was an honor!

Venue: Rancho Cicada Retreat | Florist: Matthew Armbruster | Catering: Chuck Collison | Bride’s Attire: Holly Stalder | Groom’s Attire: Thailand | Groomsmen Suspenders: Suspender Superstore | Make-Up: Hawley Lopes | Hair: Amanda Lyn Jones | Rentals: Partysmart Rentals | Videographer: DGL Studio | Succulents : The Succulent Source | Decor: BHLDN | Bridal Bouquet: Eucca Floral Studio | Signage: Marrygrams | Cornhole Boards: Back 40 Life | Cornhole Bags: Sky Pixie Cornhole | Koozies: The Drinking Buddy

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Amador Portrait Photographer

Amador Portrait Photographer Sneak Peek

After a whirlwind summer of weddings (34 y’all, 34!), I was desperately ready for some R&R around Thanksgiving.  With the first big Tahoe snowstorm still on it’s way after the holiday, I found respite in the Amador Wine Country, a favorite haunt of mine due to it’s proximity to the Tahoe area.  A short hour and a half drive, and I’m in wine lovers heaven.  Here’s a sneak peak of my Amador Portrait Session with Anne.  More to come – but now that ski season is under way – it may be a few days….

Until then, here’s Anne.

Amador Portrait Photographer

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Amador County Wedding Photographer | Rancho Cicada Retreat | Rebeca + Ryan

Rebeca and Ryan went to prom together.

True story.

Her sister introduced them.

For years after high school, they remained confidants, friends and travelers together until one day, they realized they were in love and began to date. They are both kind, adventurous, loving spirits who wanted the feeling and focus of their special day to remain on their friends and loved ones who had joined them.   When they originally contacted me about photographing their wedding, they sent a wonderful email which said they thought I was just the person to capture their event in an organic, natural way.

The wedding was a three day event at Rancho Cicada Retreat in the Amador County wine country, in Plymouth, CA.  Rancho Cicada Retreat is unbelievably stunning and feels a bit like being at summer camp.  With lush lawns, overhanging trees, a babbling brook and all their friends camping onsite, the event was exactly what they intended it to be: exceedingly comfortable, rustic, simple and sweet.

Rebeca and Ryan were the first clients to book me for the 2014 summer and as such, they contracted me to be their Amador Wine Country wedding photographer before I found out that their wedding was on the same day that two of my closest friends in Austin, Tx were set to wed.  I was a bit sad to miss my friends’ wedding, but when I arrived at Rebeca and Ryan’s wedding, I completely forgot that I was missing out because I felt so at home with them.   They encouraged me to stay and party with them after my contracted time was up and that I did: we had an epic dance party until the stroke of midnight.  “Are you really the wedding photographer!?!” one of the guests asked incredulously.  She didn’t believe Rebeca when she told her.  “My wedding photographer left the second her time was up!”

Well, I’m not that kind of photographer. I think that’s why Rebeca, Ryan and I fit so well together.  They are the most wonderful people: inspiring in both their love for each other, their mutual thirst for travel and adventure, and their exceptional taste in music.

Thank you Rebeca and Ryan for sharing your wine country wedding with me.

If you are looking to book your own Amador Wine Country Wedding in Northern, CA and want a private venue with tons of space and places for your friends to camp onsite, you should consider Rancho Cicada Retreat.  I loved it so much that I would like my own excuse to throw a private party there!  It’s secluded, off the beaten path, relaxing and private with enough camping space to host all of your friends for an entire fun-filled wine country weekend.

Venue:  Rancho Cicada Retreat | Catering: Chuck Collison | Bakery: Freeport Bakery | Flowers: Arranged by a friend of the bride, purchased from the Pheng Family Farm at the Sacramento Farmers Market

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Amador County Wedding Photographer | Rebeca plus Ryan Sneak Peek

Previously unknown fact about this most amazing couple in the world: they went to prom together.

I had such an amazing time as their Amador County Wedding Photographer and felt so welcomed by the two of them, their friends and their family, that I stayed and partied until the stroke of midnight.

More to come from Rebeca and Ryan’s super rad laid back wedding at Rancho Cicada Retreat in Amador County.

Wine Tasting in Amador County

What’s better than a weekend wine getaway at friend’s ranch in the Amador County Wine Country for Easter weekend?

The answer: a weekend wine getaway at a friend’s ranch in Amador County Wine Country for Easter weekend where we have an adult Easter Egg Hung and roast a lamb.

Pleasantly warm temperatures, abundant sunshine, good friends and a lot of wine equal quite possibly the best weekend ever.  Add some charcuterie and cheese plates to the mix and the whole weekend becomes as delectable as burrata on toast.

Want your own Amador County wine weekend?

STAY:

PLAY:

  • The roads in Amador County are perfect for road biking so bring your bikes along and tour the wineries in the best way possible.  There is a limited amount of road routes available at this site, but from what I can tell, most of the roads we were on, including the main highways, would be amazing to ride on.

EAT:

  • Taste has a rotating menu of seasonal ingredients and you can get an appetizer and beverage pairing for $13 at Thirteen Dollar Thursdays at the Wine Bar.
  • Andrae’s Bakery is heaven from the tables of cookbooks outside the door to the breads, pastries and sweets that line the glass counter inside.  Make sure you pick up some of their specialty sea salts while you’re there.  The Mediterranean Blend is great to coat on grilled fish, chicken or veggies and the Durango Hickory Smoked Sea Salt can’t be beat for steaks and burgers.

DRINK:

  • Holly’s Hill is my most favorite winery of all time. It’s not on the fastest road to Amador, but you should totally take the long way to Plymouth and Sutter Creek vie El Dorado County and stop into Holly’s Hill. Their staff is unbeatable and their grounds are gorgeous.  Nearby Madroña Vineyards is also always a clear winner.  I love their zinfandel.
  • Helwig has beautiful grounds with an amazing outdoor amphitheater.  Large groups can reserve the private tasting room for a true tour of what Helwig has to offer.  Check out their summer concert series schedule – buy a bottle (or three) of wine and take a picnic to enjoy the summer nights.
  • Cooper Vineyards is a favorite.   The owner, the grounds and the atmosphere are relaxed and unpretentious.   Locals love to visit on the nights they host their “Old-Timers’ Music Jam.”
  • Turley is one of my most favorite wineries of all time.  I can still remember the first time I ever took a sip of their wine.   Their wine is hard to come by and a must order when I find it on restaurant wine lists.  The tasting room is open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM.